Is It a Good Time to Start a Fashion Business During a Recession?

As we continue to participate in social distancing, many people in the fashion industry now have the time to start their fashion businesses, and they are. Of course, your first thought may be, “why would I do this?” or “Why would I start a fashion business in a global pandemic as we head towards a recession?” Most manufacturing is at a standstill, and there are over 10 million people on unemployment. Americans who have job security are currently still buying, but is that enough to sustain your “nonessential” business? Will people still purchase from you? Along with the regular hardships of starting a business, you now have to add COVID-19? You probably want to just wait until the dust settles, but you are wrong. This is the perfect time to start your fashion business as we anticipate a recession.

“Some of the most well-known brands started in the mist, or directly after chaos, igniting a change in the industry.”

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When you look up the definition of a business, you get long articles and thought pieces about what a business is. The basic definition is that a business is an organization or enterprising entity engaged in commercial, industrial or professional activities, but that doesn’t really tell you if you have a successful business. The one question investors will ask is “What problem are you solving?” This is also a question you should always ask yourself.

Some of the most well-known brands started in the mist, or directly after chaos, igniting a change in the industry. This is the perfect time to start a fashion company as we are more than likely heading into a recession. When an entrepreneur can think about how this change will affect the world and their industry while having low overhead, they become innovators and success comes.

The aftermath of the Industrial Revolution

From 1800 to 1900, one of the biggest changes to the fashion industry happened, the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution. The sewing machine was invented placed in factories. Therefore, mass production was in the beginning stages. Clothing and social events started to define your social status more than ever. This evolution of society was recognized by Arthur Turnue and soon the first issue of Vogue was published. Change brings ideas.

Clothing was getting massed produced, the Ready-to-Wear industry was forming, and a new wave was beginning. In 1883, Richard Warren saw this and began to sell watches. When Alvah Roebuck, a watch repairman joins him in 1887, they moved to Chicago and Sears mailed out its first catalogs. Looking ahead brings ideas.

Through 1843-1855, Rowland Huessy opened 4 dry good stores, but they all failed. However, in 1851, he moved to New York, the home of the industrial revolution, and planted his feet next to the fashion district. Clothes were being pumped out faster. While other dry good stores were worried about the current status, Rowland thought ahead. Macy’s grew to become one of the biggest chain department stores. Solving a problem brings success.

“Change brings ideas. Looking ahead brings ideas. Solving a problem brings success.”

They leveraged change to their advantage and solved a future problem, but what else do they all have in common (besides being all old white men)? They also made themselves an essential part of the industry.

One of the keys to starting a business in a recession in a “non-essential” industry is making your business essential to that industry. You have to look at the change that is coming and make sure you are part of it. What will fashion need? During the Industrial Revolution, Ready-to-Wear was growing and people were beginning to shop more. Fashion factories were also born and the shift to a fast pace society was on the heels. Mail-in catalogs were born so people could have easier access to these clothes. A luxury fashion magazine was born out of a basic need to communicate what’s going at a fast pace time.

American department stores were born as a direct solution to shopping for the many clothes made in production. Of course, this change will look different now, society is different. But analyzing the future problems and change is just what your business needs. All of these companies also have failed grossly, they didn’t continue to grow and change. Fashion magazines have passed Vogue because of their lack of change. Sears and Macys are currently failing because of their lack of change. The same value that helped grow them is the same downfall.


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“Now is the time to invest small, but invest in yourself .”

Low overhead and starting off small is also a common factor for these companies. Starting a fashion company can be very expensive. Now is the time to invest small, but invest in yourself for the future, or current, problem. If you are a seamstress or designer, this may be the perfect time to start your clothing brand. Every problem you now face is a new opportunity to overcome. Don’t wait. Starting small is the key. Your fashion business can grow, but the industry is slowing down because of the looming recession. Your small business may be just what we all need.

This is not the best time to start an online boutique because of the manufacturing process and this may be a reality for a while. That’s a problem that needs to be solved. Retailers are going bankrupt, but they still need to get rid of their current inventory. Reselling may become a huge part of the new fashion industry. Thinking ahead helps you pivot your business.

When you google starting a business during a recession, you get a lot of articles about tech and the food industry. Other people will say starting a fashion company during this time is not a good decision. Sears started with just watches and grew into a department store that now offers clothes and stoves. Vogue was just a high-end newsletter and became one of the biggest fashion magazines. Start small. Think ahead and start today. It will be worth it in the end.

Written by: Corinea L. Austin

Corinea is an Atlanta based fashion business owner and voice. She is a graduate of SCAD with a background in fashion, costume design and business management. With insight spanning into the textile industry,  she can be found on all social media under @cocorinea

Cited Sources:

Hennessy, Kathryn. Fashion: the Definitive Visual Guide. DK Publishing, 2019.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Sears.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 7 Apr. 2019,

Hanson, Keri. “The History of Macy’s: From Humble Beginnings to Stunning Success.” Visit Macy’s, 12 June 2017,


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